Thousand Words Project

Find out what a picture is worth.

Showing stories by Dan. Show all stories.


“I don’t understand,” said Fluffles. “What’s so special about this place?”

“Hmph! Good question,” said the dark cat behind her.

“Lay off it, Othello,” said another cat. He turned to Fluffles. “This is your first pilgrimage, huh? My name is Poobah. Welcome to the Pipe.”

“Uh, thanks. I’m Fluffles. What’s… going on here?”

Poobah nodded toward another cat, who was stepping away from the group and approaching a large, dark pipe. “Watch. The High Priest will get it started.”

The High Priest sat under the pipe and turned to face the assemblage. “Fellow followers of the Pipe!” he said. “We gather here, as we do, as we must, to pay tribute and prove our faith. The Pipe shall provide, as it has in the past, in the legends handed down from cat to cat.”

“What a crock,” said Othello. The High Priest ignored him.

“‘Provide?’ What does he mean it will ‘provide’?” Fluffles asked Poobah. Poobah opened his mouth to answer, but the High Priest spoke first.

“Child - the Pipe delivers wonderful gifts to those who serve it. The legends speak of birds and mice, cardboard boxes and balls of yarn, and even - to those whose faith is especially strong - tuna.”

“Legends!” sneered Othello. “Anyone can make up a legend. Have you actually seen any of these gifts?”

The High Priest drew back. “My mentor, High Priest Noodle, told me a story about-”

“A story!” Othello laughed. “Here’s a story for you - I’ve been on three of these ridiculous pilgrimages and not once have I seen this pipe of yours give up any kind of gift but rainwater dripping down the side.”

“Ah, yes,” said the High Priest. “The sacred moisture that replenishes body and spirit. It is a common gift, but a gift nonetheless. And if we only have enough faith, we may receive other gifts as well.”

The High Priest turned to the pipe and placed his front paws on it. Poobah leaned in toward Fluffles and whispered, “I’m hoping for ham. I heard one time it was ham.”

The High Priest took a few deep breaths, eyes closed. There was an eerie silence. Even Othello just watched. Finally, the High Priest threw his head back and shouted.

“Oh great Pipe! Your humble servant, High Priest Snugglepuss, is here to pay respects! And though I am hardly worthy to stand in your presence, I beseech you to reward my faith and that of my fellow cats! And to show any doubters the error of their ways.”

Fluffles glanced at Othello, but he was ignoring the speech, staring fixedly at a point halfway up the nearby stone wall.

“Oh Pipe,” continued the High Priest, “Please accept our demonstrations of faith.” And with that he removed his paws from the pipe and stepped to the side. “Who shall be next?” he asked the other cats.

“I’ll go,” said Poobah. He approached the pipe and placed his front paws upon it.

“Oh Pipe!” he shouted. “You are so very noble and large. I could never be as noble and large as you. And I respect that. I also respect ham. Just letting you know. Thanks for being such a great Pipe! I believe in you and your Pipeness.”

Poobah took his paws off and walked back to Fluffles. “You’re up,” he said.

“Me? But I… I…” stammered Fluffles.

“Have no fear, child,” soothed the High Priest. “You are among friends here. The Pipe is ready to receive your tribute of faith.”

“Go on, kid,” said Othello. “This should be hilarious.”

Slowly, haltingly, Fluffles approached the pipe. She stopped in front of it, took a deep breath, and then placed her paws on it.

“Oh, Pipe,” she said.

“Louder, child!” said the High Priest. “Be not shy! How can you expect the Pipe to reward your faith if you demonstrate it so half-heartedly?”

Fluffles closed her eyes. “Oh Pipe!” she shouted.

“Better,” said the High Priest. Othello chuckled.

Fluffles leaned her head back and faced the sky. “There is no denying that you are a great inspiration to us cats! We who, uh, come to tell you how wonderful you are, in hopes that you will reward us for it. Even the ones who come even though they say they don’t believe and are kind of jerks about the whole thing. You bring us together, and that’s pretty neat.”

Suddenly, the wall next to the pipe opened up, and a huge figure emerged. Fluffles recognized it as a Tall One. She’d seen them before - some cats kept them as servants, and the domesticated ones were reportedly quite useful. But never had she been so close to one. She scrambled back from the pipe - but the other cats weren’t retreating.

“The Keeper of the Pipe!” exclaimed the High Priest. “Our faith is rewarded! Praise the Pipe!”

The Tall One’s mouth opened, and strange not-quite-mewling sounds issued forth. Fluffles realized the Tall One was carrying something - and as the figure bent down and placed it on the ground, she craned her neck to get a better look. It seemed to be a broad, round, shallow bowl, filled with-

“Well, I’ll be a doggie’s uncle,” said Othello.

“Milk!” shouted Poobah. “It’s a miracle! Praise the Pipe!”

The cats raced forward, crashing into each other in their urgent dash to the bowl. Squeezing past one another, they managed to space themselves around it, and lapped up the milk eagerly.

The Keeper of the Pipe watched, gently cooing the indecipherable and meaningless words of the Tall Ones.

The Greater Good

Jake rested a foot on the log, pensively pushing it back and forth. The log rolled slightly.

Jerry wasn’t letting up. “Look, all I’m saying is women love that stuff. You just sprinkle a bit of that into a conversation, you’ll be rolling in it in no time.”

“Easy for you to say,” muttered Jake.

“What? Speak up, bro,” said Jerry.

Jake cleared his throat. “You’re married. You can dish out whatever advice you want. It’s not like you have to follow it. You’ve already got Sheila.”

Sheila, hearing her name, glanced over from the picnic table. Jerry gave her a smile and a wave and she smiled and nodded back before turning back to her own conversation.

Jerry leaned in toward Jake. “How do you think I got Sheila?” he asked, a grin spreading across his face.

Jake stopped rolling the log and stared at Jerry. “You didn’t.”

Jerry straightened out of his lean and waggled his eyebrows.

“Jerry, come on. Your demasking was an accident, right?”

Jerry shrugged theatrically. “Well, I’m certainly not the one who tore off my mask in front of her. But when I was taunting Doctor Dark while he had me tied up, I may have said things like, ‘Whatever you do, don’t take off my mask, I’m begging you - I need my secret identity, and revealing it to your hostage would ruin me, blah blah blah, wahh wahh.'”

Jake kept staring. “I… I can’t believe this, Jerry. I thought you were joking before. You really violated one of our sacred rules just to impress a girl?”

“Hey, now,” Jerry said, putting up a hand. “It wasn’t me, right? It was Doctor Dark. And I specifically told him not to!”

Jake looked down at the log and shook his head. He rolled the log back and forth a bit more. Suddenly, he froze. He looked up at Jerry. He cast a quick glance at Ripper Island and then stared daggers at Jerry.

“And when you took her to our secret island fortress? You said it was the only place she’d be safe from Doctor Dark, but that wasn’t the real reason, was it?”

Jerry tried to shrug nonchalantly, but his smile gave everything away. “Doctor Dark had already forgotten about her. She was just a one-shot hostage to him. I couldn’t forget her, though.”

He looked over at Sheila and watched her a moment. She was saying something that was getting a pretty good laugh out of Ellen.

Jerry turned back to Jake. “Sometimes, you just know… you know? So I had to see her again. I used the Justice Computer to track her down, flew to her apartment in full costume and knocked on her eighth-story window. I told her Doctor Dark had been spotted in the area but I knew where she could be safe. It took a bit of convincing, but she let me fly her to the fortress.”

Jake’s jaw dropped. “You… I can’t believe how irresponsible… and you call yourself a Justice Ripper…”

Jerry didn’t hear him. “When we got there… I showed her around. I let her get a look at the Justice Computer, but not too close up - just wanted to impress her, not show her how I’d kinda stalked her. I took her the trophy room, let her try out Ursa Minor’s claw-gun, and the Rainmaker’s umbrella. I took her to the Danger Chamber, and showed off with a training routine. Then we went to the Observation Dome, and under the stars… we sealed the deal.” He smiled, looking off into the distance.

The log snapped in two under Jake’s foot.

Sheila, Ellen, and Eileen looked over, startled at the sound, Ellen and Eileen automatically shifting their weight subtly into a battle-ready stance.

“Dude, we’re in public,” Jerry whispered, scanning the area to see if any civilians had noticed. “Keep a lid on the super-strength, all right?”

Jake opened his mouth to apologize, then closed it again. He laughed darkly. He smiled sheepishly at his sisters, who warily relaxed their stance.

“What a fine bunch we are,” Jake said.

“Hey, now,” said Jerry. “We do the world a great service. We have to make sure our needs get taken care of too, so we don’t snap. It’s for the greater good.”

“Right. The greater good,” said Jake, looking off toward Ripper Island.

“Just… think about it, okay?” Jerry said. “I’m not telling you to shout from the rooftops that you’re the Red Ripper. But women love being in on a secret. And the world sure didn’t end when Sheila found out who I was. I just want you to be happy, bro. Happy like I am.”

Jake put his foot on one of the log halves. He rolled it back and forth.

“Anyway,” said Jerry. “Let’s grill up those burgers, huh? I’m starved.”